Tim and his Strat. Photo: Chris Kies
You're mainly using a Gibson Flying V and a Fender Strat on tour, right?

Yeah, Flying V and Strat. On the album I played a Les Paul for the C tunings, but the truss rod became disconnected—I'm not sure if it's broken or what—and I still have to get it fixed. I didn't want to take it out on the tour, so I used an SG I'd gotten a couple years ago that I used on Chaos View. I'm a fan of all great guitars. It's easy to imagine just using one, but once you get a taste of different ones you kind of get addicted to the way they sound on certain songs. When I play acoustic, I usually stick to one or two. Electric guitars, they're almost like a different effect; the tone of a Flying V and a Strat are really different, and they have different ways of bending strings, and I just enjoy all that.

So, let's talk about effects... what's your approach? You do a lot of weird stuff, like using a ring modulator for a bar or two here and there. What led you to that?

The ring modulator is the quickest way to get the most "out" sound. After a few years with it, I learned how to manipulate it. I had to write down different settings, and now I understand the frequencies, and the waveform settings, and the mix control. I kind of feel like it's an instrument unto itself. So I just like sneaking it in randomly, or as part of the song. It's just a different thing—it's otherworldly.

My other effects are pretty normal: Leslie simulator, Jimi Hendrix Uni-Vibe sound, delay. Those are pretty normal. I got some new effects recently, but I haven't really felt like I've learned to use them. My newest is a Z.Vex Fuzz Factory. I use that as a third channel, it's got such a different sound—uber-sustain. You can actually turn one knob and just make it squeal, like it's out of control. Sometimes I'll use that when I want the ring modulator to speak a little louder. Turn that up and it's just kind of BLAUGH!!! It's kind of fun to have that option.

The main effect I associate with you is delay, but you didn't seem to be using it as much this time out.

With the band and this kind of music, it's more about the interplay between the band. I'm probably known for using it more with the acoustic, not so much with looping, but to do transitions between a 6- and a 12-string. I'll just write a random title, something silly, and that'll be an improvising section with the delay. And I guess in the end, I do it less and less. I started out in the '80s playing at Miller's every Monday, I really got into the science of that. And I notice now that you can buy a giant loop station and have everything timed, and that's really cool, but it's like so many people are doing that now. I'm still trying to learn how to play guitar. With the power trio, I just kind of get back to the basic thing, the ring modulator is the detour effect for that. I still love the delay, and I depend on it for a lot of those songs, but it's just more subtle.

So what gear are you going to be taking out with Dave this summer?

It's pretty similar to what I used [before]. It's a bigger rig, even though I probably don't need a bigger rig. No one uses an amp on stage except Stefan [Lessard, bassist for Dave Matthews Band]. There's so much air being moved... even with a 4x12 cabinet and a hundred-watt head, if I'm not standing right next to it, I can't hear it. I have a monitor, but I have everyone else's stuff too. Everyone else uses in-ear monitors, but I'd rather use the squishy old earplugs, it makes every place sound the same to me, because I have really bad tinnitus.

[The rig] is just a bigger version of my usual stuff. The first year, I used a Marshall, and for some reason, I couldn't get my usual tone out of it. So we switched to Mesa the next year, and seemed to alleviate that. We also figured out I was getting a lot of tone loss from the wiring into the amp, which I'd never experienced before, or maybe I'd just never put it under a microscope to check it out. So we used one of those tone boosters, and that totally fixed it. I remember the first year [DMB] released their live gigs on their own label hearing the tone of the Marshall and going "Oh god, that's not right!" And then the next year, it was totally better using the Mesa and the signal booster.

Next time I go to the studio, I'm going to have more amp options. When we did the Grux album [Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King], the producer was also a guitar player, and he had giant racks of all these different amp heads, and I kinda just went to school on all these different amps. I mean, some of them I didn't like, but the coolest was this Marshall amp that said "Fuckface" on it. Whenever we needed something that would work every time, we'd go to that.

So out of all the guitars that you've owned and played throughout your career, what's your "go-to," desert island guitar?

For desert island, it'd have to be a Martin D-35. You can just pick it up and play it. It's got a nice big, boomy, kind of bassy sound because of the three-piece back. A while ago I was doing a gig with this folk guy, John McCutcheon. We were doing this rock tune in his living room and he picked up this Martin and just started playing this song with an A chord and I just though, "What kind of guitar is this? That's what I want!" It just has a great tone, and I love the hell out of it. I love the D-28s, too. I have a 12-string D-28 that's right up there with the rest. That's another thing I really love, 12-strings. Then the next level would be a Strat, because whenever I want to play a solo with the band, and I really want it to express emotion, I go to that. I mean, I love Gibsons too, it's just a minor click away from that too. I've become addicted to all of them, especially the Flying V—it's just got a really nice tone.

Anything else on the horizon for you?

We're working on a TR3 live CD which we'll probably have come out the beginning of next year. At the end of last year, we recorded some gigs and there's a lot of stuff I'm really psyched to put on CD. It's live, so I guess there's more what you'd call shredding or guitar improv, a little more busy, funny stuff. There are some longer versions of songs, some stuff off of Radiance, some covers, and just having fun, the way a live album captures the feel of a gig.

I also have a CD I'm trying to get out by the end of this year that's a bunch of acoustic solos—a two-CD thing, one with all instrumentals and one that's vocal tunes. All that was recorded when I was still in New Mexico, the last summer that I spent any time there. Before I left, we had this small house that was like a studio space. Not necessarily like a hi-fi recording studio, it was an artist's studio that I adopted as my hangout, my man cave. I recorded a lot of stuff there. I didn't really have a big board and a recording room, but I could do what I needed to do.

Which covers? You mentioned "Wild Country" earlier.

Some James Brown, some Prince, Zeppelin, some Portishead, Golden Earring, "Hocus Pocus" by Focus, "Jesus is Just Alright" by the Doobie Brothers, "Matte Kudasai" by King Crimson... we're just all over the place. Sometimes we'll be joking with each other, and say "What about this song?" But then we'll play it and go "We almost know it. Let's learn it!" Last tour, I really wanted to learn this Portishead song I've been loving for years, so we just did it and it was really fun. It's almost like a Miles Davis song, you can improvise, but the head is so memorable, that's all you really need to play: just this vocal line and a harmonica sample—I'll use a slide to get the harmonica sound—but it's just so much fun to play!

Tim's Gearbox
  • Gibson Flying V

  • Fender American Deluxe HSS Stratocaster
Gibson SG (Drop-C tuning)

  • Schecter C-7 7-string
Martin D-35

  • Martin D12-28

  • Jim Dunlop Univibe

  • Moogerfooger Ring Modulator

  • Boss DD-6 Digital Delay
Hughes & Kettner Rotosphere
Z.Vex Fuzz Factory

  • Fishman Aura (for acoustic guitars)

Marshall JCM-2000 with 1960A cabinet
Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier with 2x12 cabinet